State's bishops oppose casino expansion
The Catholic bishops of New York state are speaking out against the potential spread of casino gambling.
In a statement released Sept. 29, the bishops alerted citizens that they'll have the opportunity to vote Nov. 5 on an amendment to the state Constitution that would allow for up to seven casinos to be constructed around the state. The closest one to the Diocese of Rochester would be in the Binghamton area.
The bishops expressed concern over the spread in recent years of legalized gambling statewide for the purpose of raising revenue, citing multistate lotteries and also video slot machines and video poker being added at horse-racing tracks.
"With these initiatives, along with five Indian-run casinos, off-track betting, and ever-increasing variations of scratch-off lotteries, gambling already is big business for the state," the bishops said in a statement. "Even if the state does realize economic benefits envisioned by our elected officials, we voters must also consider the potential for negative consequences."
The bishops said the Catholic Church, while morally neutral on gambling in general, states in Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 2413 that gambling "becomes morally unacceptable when it deprives an individual of what is necessary to provide for his/her needs and those of others." They also contended that casino gambling is a particular threat in this regard: "With their flashing lights, free-flowing alcoholic drinks, all-night hours and generally intoxicating atmosphere, casinos are more likely than other gambling options to lead to bad decisions and catastrophic losses for patrons, particularly those prone to problem or compulsive gambling."
In addition, the state's bishops cited studies showing that availability of a casino within 50 miles doubles the prevalence of problem or pathological gamblers; and that the increase in certain state revenues through casino gambling has been countered by significant increases in embezzlement arrests, DWI arrests, personal bankruptcies, and substandard and illegal housing for undocumented workers near casinos.
The bishops' statement also pointed out that with so many gambling options already in operation statewide, "there is only so much revenue to be gained. Indeed, casinos in our neighboring states have been struggling for their very survival due to an oversaturated market, so it is difficult to see how New York’s casino operators will reverse that trend. And while some will argue the casinos will bring employment, the jobs that casinos create tend to be of the low-paying service variety, rather than good-paying, upwardly mobile careers."